Earlier this week, I participated in a great panel that discussed how political campaigns should be using voter data to reach audiences.  I’m struck by how far our industry has come in such a short period of time.

As expected, much of the conversation centered around the voter file.  What I didn’t expect was the unanimous desire for data that goes beyond the voter file.  Conventional wisdom in political campaigning dictated that the voter file is the foundation of any communication strategy.  If the panel was held even a year ago, it’s likely this principle would have held true.

Instead, panelist Tracy Dietz of L2 said, “Don’t just take the voter file the state gives you.  It’s outdated and sometimes just plain wrong.”  And John Hagner of Clarity Campaigns added that he’d “go with modeled data every time.”  I was surprised to hear even Jordan Lieberman at Campaign Grid say that voter files have minimal value without appended data.

There’s still value in the voter file – otherwise we would not have on-boarded it ourselves.  For all the perceived value in the voter file, the reality is the information states require upon registration is wildly inconsistent.  For instance, the only information required in all states and DC is name and address.  In addition, 41 ask for gender, but just 26 ask for party affiliation.  More states ask about your mental health than your race/ethnicity.

But the voter file does hold vote history, and that’s incredibly useful information.  The vote history is a record of when someone voted, not how they voted – or more importantly, why.  And that’s where Resonate’s deep insights deliver distinct value and relevancy to the voter file.

Understanding the issues that matter to voters is a topic also discussed at recent panel “Do Candidates Matter,” hosted by The Hill.  At the event, David Dixon of Dixon/Davis Media Group said, “Elections are about a choice.  And in tight, close elections, that 35% (swing voters) are judging candidates on not only who their character is, but also the bigger issues.”

Only Resonate enhances the voter file with the issues that drive voter decisions and candidate support.  We work with campaigns to deliver relevant messages to the most receptive online audience while reducing inefficient ad spend.  To ensure campaigns extend their reach, we can identify additional voters who are most likely to share the candidate’s views.

It’s a win-win for those who want to use the voter file while leveraging Resonate’s proprietary understanding of why and how people make their decisions to vote for a candidate.  “Emotion trumps data,” stated Todd Harris of Something Else Strategies, also at The Hill’s panel.  “You look at the economic data, you can say ‘look at what’s happening with the economy.’  But until someone actually feels it and believes it – on an emotional level – they’re going to continue to behave as if the economy is just like it was several years ago.”